There’s nothing worse than running late for a flight only to end up stuck in a security line bottleneck behind the couple fumbling with the laces on their hiking boots, the first-time flyer emptying change, penny by penny, or the parent too busy talking on the phone to notice their toddler’s jacket zipper is now inexplicably stuck to their stuffed animal. As veteran travelers, we know that making it through the Transportation Security Administration, (TSA) line is nothing less than a refined science, brought about through trial, error and the occasional streak of good luck. Consider the following tips and make it through airport security faster and easier the next time you fly.
1. Have Your Paperwork Ready
You may have no problem holding on to your license in your daily life, but there is something about the hustle and bustle of the airport that often results in losing sight of important documents – boarding passes and passports can easily end up at the bottom of a purse or thoughtlessly put in a jacket pocket. As soon as you enter the security line, have your boarding pass and ID at the ready. A passport holder or ID holder can help keep the important items separate and therefore more top of mind as you get into the security line.
2. Perform Your Own Security Scan
A short line doesn’t always mean a fast line. Get a good look at the type of people waiting in each line, not the number. A dozen businesspeople might move through security much faster than two families with young children or a tour group of senior citizens. Just remember this equation: One baby carriage equals four typical passengers. Here’s another quick tip: aim for the far left or far right scanner lanes. Most casual and new travelers just walk straight ahead and end up waiting longer as a result.
3. Dress up to Dress down - Wear Socks & Slip-On Shoes
Remember the adage, “don’t dress for the job you have, dress for the job you want?” Well, for the (hopefully) short time you are moving through security, the job you want is to get in and out of security as quickly as possible. In addition to the basics, (keep jewelry, belts, cell phones etc tucked in your carry-on – you can secure your pants and get back to playing Angry Birds soon enough). Put valuables like jewelry and keys in the pockets of your jacket before you put your jacket through the X-ray – then you can redress at your gate instead of in front of that plastic tray.
You are required to take off your shoes in order to pass through the metal detectors, so put those sandals away and wear shoes with socks. It’s not only more hygienic, but it’s also safer for you and dare we say, just a better all-around visual for the people next to you in line! Socks are also great to have when you actually board the plane and find yourself faced with frigid in-flight temperatures.
Next, when every second counts, don’t waste time fiddling with a pair of laces, complicated straps and buckles or yanking off your steel-toe boots. A simple pair of ballet flats for women or slip-on loafers for men will do the trick quite nicely. At Eagle Creek, we are big fans of Toms Shoes, and find these comfy canvas slips-ons to be the perfect travel shoe for men, women and kids alike. If you tend to over-pack and need space in your bag, wear boots you can slip on and off easily - wearing these can be a great way to open up more space in your luggage.
4. Unpack Like a Pro
You know the drill, all liquids and gels must be 3 oz or smaller and fit into a 1 quart bag. Save yourself the expense of purchasing travel-sized products and the inevitable busted sandwich bag lotion explosion later, and pick up a clear bag with clear bottles that you can fill with product from your full-size bottles at home (our travel bottle sets are great and the bag is a quart size). Label your bottles to keep products easy to recognize and put the bag in a front pocket of your carry-on or in your day bag. When it’s time to go through security, simply unzip the outer pocket and place your liquids next to the bag in your bin and move on through! Of course, if you like trying out different beauty brands when you travel, 3Floz.com is a great resource for stocking up on TSA-approved toiletries.
Speaking of carry-ons, make it easy on the TSA agent (and reduce embarrassment) by packing items by category. Looking for a solution to tornado-style packing? The Eagle Creek Pack-It™ System will help to ensure that if your bag is opened, at least the process of getting it zipped back up again is a smooth one.
5. Purchase a TSA-Friendly Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Bag
If it’s likely you will be traveling with your laptop often, a TSA-friendly laptop bag that will allow you to keep your laptop in the bag is a must. These bags are butterfly style, a tri-fold style or a sleeve with a designated section for the laptop that will lay flat on the X-ray machine's belt. Of course, Eagle Creek has several checkpoint friendly laptop bags to choose from, so you don’t have to waste any more time than you need to with airport security.
6. Check Extra Electronics
One of the best things about traveling is capturing the moment. However, the more electronics you have sitting in their cases, the longer it will take you to get through security. TSA requires travelers to remove large electronic items, such as laptops, camcorders and DVD players, from their cases and you'll have to place each item in its own bin for the X-ray machine. Electronic cases will need to go through the machine as well, so whenever possible, pack anything you won’t need during the flight (battery packs, USB cables, DSLR, etc).
7. Expedited Services Might be Worth It
Some airlines offer an expedited security line for First-Class or upgraded passengers, which can be worth its weight during the early commuter rush. If you are a U.S. citizen traveling abroad, you may want to consider the Global Entry Program for around $100 to eliminate the extra step at customs and ensure you meet your connecting flight. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States using kiosks. Finally, if you happen to be flying through Denver or Orlando in the United States, Clear is a similar program that will allow passengers to bypass security altogether.
8. When in doubt, uphold the Golden Rule
Be Polite. This will get you so much farther. Remember that TSA screens more than two-million people every day and it’s no cake walk for anybody. Keep things friendly and in perspective! After all, each step in line is a step closer to your next travel adventure!
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
The Easy Way to Apply for TSA Pre-check
Top 3 Packing Tips from Eagle Creek Experts
Tips for International Travel